October 9th, 2013, 9PM, ABC
Cam tries to tell his negative, irascible, lonely sister Pam about his engagement, only to be met with an engagement announcement of her own -to an ex-crush of Cam’s. When Pam finds out about Cam’s mild jealousy, she ends up telling Cam he’s too weak for country living – leading to a showdown at a family party. An exhausted and bored Phil and Claire try to dodge one of Luke’s soccer games but Claire ends up attending it anyway, and Luke ends up playing the game of his life. Claire can’t admit she was at the game, after Phil’s chore time goes violently awry. His invention destroys a nest of fledgling birds and she doesn’t want to make him feel worse. Alex plays Words with Friends with Jay, and Manny and Jay try to force Gloria to admit that she needs glasses.
“Farm Strong” is yet another bit of easily digestible comedy from the Modern Family crew, but the best bit of plot has nothing to do with Cam’s hyper-competition with his sister or from Claire and Phil’s domestic disaster. Instead, most of the laughs stem from the amusingly relatable Jay/Gloria part, in which he goes to ridiculous lengths to convince her she needs new specs, and the way she manages to turn the tables on him is amusing and inspired.
Conversely all of the laughs in the Claire/Phil part of the plot stem from Phil’s yard-work disaster and his emotional breakdown over what happens. That they both nearly miss out on Luke’s game feels like just desserts for their selfishness. The increasingly surly Luke makes this plot hard watching at times, and one is left wondering just why Claire never thought to ask around for a digital copy of Luke’s performance. There had to be someone there with a camera-phone.
As for Cam’s subplot, one ends up enjoying Pam far more than her surprisingly grating sibling, which is quite a twist. Cam’s silly jealousy feels irrational, especially considering his incredible family and successful career. By the time they finally make up, you’re wondering what took Cam so long to come around. There’s a great moment or two from Lily, and Mitchell seems to fade into the background and watch the chaos reign.
It’s interesting that Hayley has been used as an intervening voice of reason twice this season; might they be setting up a fresh role for her within the family? Anything’s better than having her be a grandpa-chasing college drop out and nothing more or less.
Performances are all over the map; particularly strong is again Ed O’Neill, who is deeply funny as Jay tries to drag his wife out of her deeply-rooted vanity. Everyone else is phoning it in, the dullness of the plots not helping to produce particularly inspired work from anyone within the main cast.
“Farm Strong” isn’t the best episode of Modern Family in existence, and it’s not the brightest. Watch it for the Gloria side of the plot, but the rest of the subplots are simply skippable.
- We’ve heard about Cam’s childhood on a Wisconsin farm before, starting around season 2, though a sister hasn’t been directly mentioned before.
- For all of its faults, the best quote actually comes from Phil and Claire’s side of the plot: “It takes over your weekend.” “And not in a cool Mythbusters marathon way!”
- Another great one from Pam: “He thinks I’m beautiful – and he’s right.”
- Another highlight is the party scene, which quickly melts down as every individual problem collides into one long meltdown.
- Jay and Gloria’s boxer dog is visible in the tag scene.
- Next week, Jay’s got a hot reservation at a brand-new restaurant, and his kids and spouse have to race to get there in “Late Show.”
[notification type=star]77/100 ~ GOOD. Simple, easy, workmanlike sitcom frippery. Sadly, another just-okay ep in an uneven season. Watch it for the Gloria/Jay part only.[/notification]